The National Native Title Council has welcomed a government commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous Australians to lift the standards of heritage protection, but says major concerns remain over the WA Government’s proposed new bill.

A roundtable meeting this week of the Commonwealth, State and Territory ministers responsible for cultural heritage was presented with documents outlining a roadmap and best practice standards for cultural heritage management.

The roadmap was developed by the chairs of Australia’s national, state and territory Indigenous heritage bodies with the aim of providing a foundation for modernising Australia’s cultural heritage protection.

However, a draft bill overhauling WA’s dated heritage protection laws falls “significantly short” of the reform needed, says the CEO of the National Native Title Council, Jamie Lowe.

“Under the draft WA bill, ultimate decision-making power still sits with the minister. If Traditional Owners don’t agree to the destruction of a site, then such authorisation can be provided by the minister. This forces the hand of Traditional Owners to reach agreement because they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. This is not genuine “consent”, it is harm mitigation. How is this going to prevent another Juukan Gorge catastrophe?”